Like many other wrestling fans across the globe, I like to think I could be the next Vince McMahon, I think that I could run my own wrestling company and I always have a million and one storyline ideas running around my head. Someone who got off the couch and actually turned these thoughts in to reality was Mark Dallas. In 2010 Mark ran his first show in front of 30 people, last weekend his company Insane Championship Wrestling ran their biggest show to date at Scotland’s biggest arena ‘The Hydro’ to over 6000 paying fans.
In 2010 if you said the name Mark Dallas to any wrestling fan the response would have been – who is he? Now he is synonymous with the growth of wrestling popularity not only in ICW but across the UK. Mark hasn’t done this with stacks of cash, he has done it with unrivalled creativity and vision, which has seen ICW become one of the most talked about and most influential promotions around the world today.
ICW were cemented as part of the mainstream when across 2014 and 2015 the BBC produced two incredible documentaries on them called ‘Insane Fight Club.’ These shows broadcast ICW from their native Scotland to across the UK. The documentaries were the biggest TV event for British Wrestling since the World of Sport days during the last golden era for British Wrestling, but now we can say thanks to ICW that a new golden era may just be beginning.
ICW’s annual show ‘Fear & Loathing’ is their flagship show, their version of WrestleMania if you will. In 2014 they sold out the Barrowlands with it, in 2015 they sold out the SECC the second biggest arena in Scotland and although they didn’t sell out at ‘The Hydro’ they grew the crowd by thousands and at their current rate of growth, you wouldn’t put it past them to sell it out within the next two years.
ICW are so different to any other promotion, not only on the creative end of their product but the business end as well, two things which have been sorely lacking in the UK for some time. Being the visionary that Mark Dallas is in 2015 he announced that ‘Fear & Loathing’ would be at ‘The Hydro’ in 2016 and the day after this year’s incredible show tickets were available for next years show, again at ‘The Hydro.’ Not many other (if any) British wrestling companies plan and promote shows a year in advance but that is how professional ICW is and how forward thinking they are. When ICW announced that they would be at ‘The Hydro’ in 2016 many people thought that it would be a bridge too far, even for ICW but not Mark Dallas, he believed in his product and put in the hard work to make it a success.
What is more incredible about this years success is that they sold over 6000 tickets to ‘The Hyrdo’ without the BBC coverage that they had in the run up to the SECC show in 2015. What ICW managed to do in 2015 was capture peoples imagination and through their product they not only continue to keep fans but their fans continue to be their army, championing their cause, spreading the word and bringing new fans to the promotion.
ICW had lots going against them this year, first was WWE announcing and holding Raw & Smackdown tapings at ‘The Hydro’ a few weeks before their show. The second thing was the incredible competition in the UK marketplace with Ring of Honor doing a small tour of the UK on the same weekend as ‘Fear & Loathing’ the first UK Ring of Honor tour for 10 years, this was coupled with shows by other great UK Promotions like PCW and RPW holding the very successful Global Wars the weekend before.
Whilst the likes of RPW and RoH were putting on critically acclaimed shows in front of anything from a reported 600 to just over 1000 crowd, ICW blew them out of the water. Don’t get me wrong 600 – 1000 are big numbers in comparison to where this industry has been in the last 10 years but nowhere near ICW’s league. There is one reason why ICW can draw these numbers and transcend the business, that reason is their identity.
Packaging and presentation
The brainchild of Mark Dallas is so strong that ICW is unlike any other. You can see many of the ICW roster on shows across the UK but you can’t see a show like ICW anywhere else. ICW isn’t relying on wrestler star power or so-called ‘dream matches’; ICW’s selling point is its packaging and presentation. An ICW show is an experience unlike anywhere else, the storylines and characters that Mark Dallas creates is what makes ICW one of the most talked about wrestling promotions today.
Like many other promotions from time to time ICW bring in big name imports from America to star on their shows. The difference when ICW brings them in compared to other promotions is that they find a way creatively to sew them in to their storylines and get the most out of them. At ‘Fear & Loathing’ this year they had Kurt Angle, Team 3D, Ricochet and an appearance by Finn Balor but what they did is they found ways to use them to get the local talent over, so they didn’t all win and they all played a part in creating and cementing long term stars in ICW. That takes bravery from Mark Dallas and shows how big ICW are, that big name American wrestlers are happy to do the honours and play their part to help the brand.
The new ECW
Many similarities have been talked about between ICW and infamous American company called ECW, who in the late 90s were seen as the most cutting edge, game changing wrestling promotion. I think a few years ago the similarities may have been seen to many as flattering to ICW but now I think with what ICW have achieved these last two years that it should now be ECW alumni who are flattered by being compared to ICW. If ICW were based out of America and doing what they have been doing for the last 6 years then you would have to start calling them the number two promotion behind the behemoth that is WWE.